A short while ago on TNT's post-game show, analyst Chris Webber and cohorts Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley devoted an interesting (and potentially significant) segment to the Kings' possible relocation to Anaheim. I transcribed the tape and will include most of the conversation below, the significance of which includes this: Webber saying he is engaged in talks with individuals intent on keeping the Kings in Sacramento; Barkley (jokingly?) saying he will invest "$10-15 million" to assist; Smth, also a former King, saying that, on the Kings worst nights, the fans were as lusty as they were during the years they contended.
Though Webber refused to be specific on-air about the extent of his commitment, after making a few late-night phone calls, I reached original Sacramento Kings executive vice-president Greg Van Dusen, who offered a few specifics. According to Van Dusen, Webber is willing to facilitate a deal - headed by Roger Stewart of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to "restructure" the city's $77 million loan to the club. Van Dusen, who is working with Arco I and II architect Rann Haight.
"We've been working on this for about three months," said Van Dusen. "The idea is to relieve some of the financial pressure on the Maloofs and the ownership group. Roger had a very positive conversation today (Tuesday) with Chris, who isn't only interested in helping, he wants to lead the effort to keep the Kings here. He loves Sacramento and thinks this is where the Kings belong."
Although I was unable to reach Webber at his home in Atlanta late Tuesday night, I am aware that he has made overtures about buying into the Maloofs' majority ownership, but has been rebuffed. Anyway, until further clarification, here is the majority of the conversation on the TNT show. Smith starts off by declaring that Kings fans were the same when the team was 9-29 and when Webber led the team that contended during the 1999-2004 seasons:
Webber: "I didn't want to go there (Sacramento). I tried to run away from there. They still accepted me. I can't imagine what Sacramento would be like without basketball ... I hope we do not lose the team. I've been talking to people there. I know everyone thinks the team is gone, but I'm doing all I can to keep the team there. I may sound like a fool on national TV, but I'm working to do that. Other people are working to do that ... It's very selfish. I won't have a basketball home if Sacramento doesn't have a basketball team. I was talking to (former Sonics star) Gary Payton. He doesn't have his jersey hanging in any arena. There is no team in Seattle. Selfishly for myself, and for the fans in Sacramento ....
Ernie Johnson: "What are you doing (to further efforts)?"
Webber: "What am I doing? I'm trying to keep the team here. We don't want to talk about it, but ... what else am I supposed to do? I love this team. I still want to have a home in Sacramento. Hopefully it's not a lost cause. I love Sacramento."
Barkley: "You know, it's very frustrating to me because I love the city of Sacramento, and I've said before, they had the best fans in the NBA for a long time. I really like the Maloof brothers. I want to make that clear. But I'm very disappointed ... because they should have found a way to keep that team in Sacramento ... I agree with Chris. Even when the team sucked, they (fans) were great. I mean, they were raising hell every night. I've always had great respect for the Maloof brothers. They've always been great to me. I'm just disappointed they didn't try harder to make it work ... It's like they (NBA, owners) screwed Seattle. That place was crazy. But Sacramento ... I agree with both of you guys. You all were great when you weren't very good. It was all the same.That place was loud. I hate the fact they're leaving Sacramento."